Writing is hard. Most who write will tell you that. Those who say it is easy are either brilliant or lying. Writing is scary. Learning to write is often a series of trial and error, drafts, coffee, and tears (or that last part could just be me). Writing is vulnerable. When we write, we expose our innermost thoughts and feelings, and we reveal the inner workings of our mind. Writing is a process familiar to many of us, yet, in times of uncertainty, writing becomes uncertain too.
Writing is even more challenging when it is done in the midst of social and cultural change. One finding their voice can be drowned out by the uncertainty faced in daily life. Learning to cope with living in a pandemic, living in the midst of necessary and justified civil unrest, and returning to a college campus where everything feels incredibly familiar yet unfamiliar is not conducive to creating one’s strongest work. Over the past several months, a feeling of increasing isolation and doubt has begun to take hold for so many. I’ve noticed even in my own writing the insecurity of current events bleeds through when pen is put to paper (or fingers put to keys, but you know what I mean). Mental health has become a feature we are acutely aware of. It is incredibly difficult to create a divergence between the anxiety of the everyday and the anxiety of writing. Despite the stress associated with the act of writing, it can serve as a practice that moves beyond the standard social construction of the act. Writing can be a tool that is incredibly reflective of the thoughts and sentiments of its author in a way that is liberating to the writer and impactful to its readers. Because of this, I choose to see writing as a positive instrument to utilize in times such as this when expression becomes a key in communication. I think, too, that this can be shown in many ways.
Writing has many forms and functions, and there is a multiplicity of ways we can express our feelings through them. Outside of the academy, writing poetry, journaling, creating a piece of fiction you are passionate about—all of these and many more are forms of writing which can be employed. In these forms, one is able to explore their own emotional state and communicate it in a way that is legible to others whether this be through a number of poetic devices or through the experiences of a character. By participating in these artforms, one opens themselves to the possibility that others feel the same way too, and, perhaps, through expression the loneliness and fear that is ever so present can be overcome.
Academic writing, too, is an opportunity to explore the margins modern society teeters on. Through research papers, personal narratives, and community presentations, we are able to explore the complex relationship between ourselves and the world we live in. Exploration can be demonstrated by researching important social justice issues and expounding on these through academic composition. Experiences within specific communities and as a certain person can be examined through narrative. Presenting relevant, important information through presentation is a subtle form of activism too. Each strategy one may take to address anxiety in academic writing approaches the issue from a different angle. The beauty of this is that there is no ONE way to do things. Ultimately, you must choose what is best for you.
Although it is difficult to abandon our preconceptions of what writing is and how it traditionally functions, there is a certain power in the understanding of writing as a mode of catharsis and empowerment. In a time where things feel increasingly disconnected, writing is a mode that is universally linked. Largely, writing is an act of kindness. What you say when you write has the ability to impact how someone else views the world—or themselves. Be kind, and share your voice.
Feel free to let those of us in the Writing Center hear your voice too.
There is nothing capitalistic about the process of education for an individual. Education, of course, takes time, and time is money that could be well-spent. What is capitalistic is education’s outcome: the skills to participate as a cog in the machine that is society, and therefore attribute some monetary value to yourself and the economy. What happens between birth and that participation is simply preparation, to be completed as swiftly and mess-free as possible.
These values — whether we like them or not — are internalized by writers. We write and rewrite until we find satisfaction, and maybe even eventually pride, only to look back on our work years later and feel embarrassed by it. We frustrate ourselves for not writing enough, or for writing too much of what we perceive to be garbage; we attempt over and over to emulate writers we want to (but can never) be. The problem lies in the fact that writing never stops being an education in and of itself. Writing relies on you being the best you are in the moment; and, because we are human beings who grow and learn and change, your best will vary day to day. There is no equation to becoming the next Shakespeare. And, because writing also functions as an ongoing education, no writer will ever wake up and suddenly be the best they will ever be. (Even if they did, it’s not like they would know it.)
Writing is so rarely about capital gain (if it is, it almost never starts that way). Yet, we continue to maintain capitalistic values when looking at our own. How many years has that novel been a work in progress? How long have you been struggling with that essay? How many times have you rewritten that poem? When we have not moved from Point A to Point B with efficiency, when we have not produced content we deem “good enough,” it is frustrating at best; a perceived waste of time at worst. Key word: perceived.
How do we change that perception? Well, the question we should really be asking ourselves is: why do we write? I write to feel joy. I write to inhabit new worlds. I write to feel heard, even if nobody else reads it. Maybe those aren’t the reasons you write; that’s okay, too. Whatever the reason, I think the key to engaging our students and ourselves in writing is to emphasize it as a process, not a product. Writing has inherent value because of the labor that was put into it — because of the voice that lies within it — because of the skills learned in its making. How exciting it is to see each new page as an opportunity to be better, as opposed to far more daunting steps to completion.
We put so much pressure on ourselves to participate in our writing the same way we are pressured to participate in society: with blinders to the finish line. But, outside of the deadlines we face in academia and our careers, there is no real finish line to the writing process. You will never be Shakespeare. You will never wake up and suddenly be the best writer you will ever be. (Even if you do, you won’t know it.)
Writing centers, like many other private and public workplaces, felt the unprecedented impacts of the coronavirus pandemic as much of the work in the centers had to be readjusted for remote operations. In the wake of this pandemic and remote operations, writing center tutoring necessarily had to also take a different and creative turn to ensure that writers have a space to discuss their writing processes and concerns. Hence, instead of meeting face-to-face with consultants, tutoring was transferred online either synchronously (over videoconferencing) or asynchronously (via written feedback). Unsurprisingly, both approaches continue to record remarkable success as writers’ goals and concerns are satisfactorily addressed. It is, however, important to discuss the dynamics of the written feedback approach to ensure that both writers and tutors are maximizing the low-hanging opportunities this approach affords, especially seeing that it is the most used appointment option.
The written feedback approach, which mainly requires the tutor to read, review and provide written comments on writers’ draft bearing the writers’ concerns in mind, does seem to lack the dialogic exchanges that make for a typical, productive tutoring session. Nevertheless, this does not make the approach less productive. In fact, it appears that the peculiarities of written feedback in terms of its un-dialogic exchanges make the approach very effective in writing center tutoring. Written feedback approach allows writers to establish the writing concerns they require help with––as it would obtain in a face-to-face tutoring. (The appointment forms writers fill require that they provide a detailed description of their writing project and writing concerns). And this serves as the premise for the kind of conversation/un-dialogic exchanges the tutor engages in with the writers’ drafts.
In a discussion on how comments and feedback on writers’ draft can be viewed as conversational, Busekrus (2018) explains that the art of asking thoughtful questions is one significant tool for instilling a conversational lens in feedback. Questions like: “Can you say little more about how you managed this situation rather than just hinting at it?”; “I’m not sure how this sentence connects to the purpose of the paragraph. Could you make that connection clearer or move this sentence closer to paragraph 3, or what do you think?”; “would an example be appropriate here?” among others. Busekrus, quoting Kjesrud (2015), further describes conversational questions as including those framed as non-interrogative (give more information about this point.); leading (isn’t this approach too simple?); tags (The author does not give facts to support it, does she?); and open-ended (How does the author further this discussion throughout the book?).
A cursory look at these questions shows the tutor in a dialogic mode with an ‘imaginary’ writer as if it were a face-to-face interaction with the aim of extending the conversation to the writer for their thoughtful responses and opinion to the questions through revision. This goes to emphasize the point that, though asynchronous, a written feedback properly done not only helps the tutor engage in a productive exchange with writers (and their drafts) but also provides writers with viable nuances to help make revision to their drafts and avoid similar issues in subsequent drafts.
The written feedback approach, thus, provides a conversational space for both tutor and writer to converge and exchange valuable revision ideas: the writer, in their appointment forms, leads the exchange by pointing the tutor’s attention to primary areas of concerns while the tutor enters into the draft with these concerns in mind for their interaction with the draft, asking thoughtful questions. Since the success of the conversation depends greatly on how much detail the writer provides in their appointment form, it is recommended that writers are encouraged to see the written feedback approach as conversational.
As we navigate the unnerving period of this pandemic, written feedback approach seems to have afforded writing centers an opportunity of a different and creative approach for continuing in the task of producing better writers.
Busekrus, Elizabeth. (2018). “A Conversational Approach: Using Writing Center Pedagogy in Commenting for Transfer in the Classroom.” Journal of Response to Writing, 4(1): 100–116.
Today marks the third week of the semester and so much of how we operate – as a university, as a writing center, as faculty, staff, students, and humans – has changed and continues to change as everyone adapts to different teaching and resource modalities.
This semester, along with many other university resources like REACH, the Career Center, and the Counseling Center, we decided to offer virtual appointments in order to keep you and our staff safe. Admittedly, it’s been difficult for us because seeing you as individuals and writers and getting to interact and collaborate with you in-person is one of the aspects of writing center culture we value so much.
Whether you visit the Writing Center one time or multiple times over the course of your academic and professional careers, our consultants are here to learn about you as writers and people, as well as to help you with your writing. So much of their own academic and professional experiences, as well as interests, contribute to that process. As you navigate how to adjust to a more virtual environment, we hope that you take the time to get to know our consultants whose aims are the same as if we were meeting you in-person: to listen and to help you become a better writer.
Writing Tip: “Write with the mindset of telling a story, even if you’re working on something like a research paper. Finding the story you are telling is often an approachable way to work through your own thinking, and it can help you make sure that your reader will follow the argument and reasoning in your writing.”
Madelaine “Maddy’ Decker is interested in producing fiction as well as researching topics related to 18th century literature and African American literature. She earned her BA in English and Anthropology from the University of Kentucky. Her favorite book is The Thief Lord, and her outside interests include knitting, Irish archaeology, 2010’s pop punk, and the Muppets.
Writing Tip: “Try not to make unreasonable rules about what your process should look like or how long a piece of writing should take you to finish.”
Amanda Dolan is a second year MA student whose research interests include memory, literature and other art forms, and the syncretization of myth. Prior to her return to academia, she worked in education research.
Writing Tip: “Just start writing. you can always improve it later, but if you spend all of your energy worrying that it will be bad, you’re cheating yourself.”
Chuck Glover completed her BA in English at the University of Louisville. Her academic interests include creative writing, screenwriting, and the study of feminist, socialist, and LGBT literature. Her favorite TV shows are King of the Hill and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and her favorite movies are Parasite and Gone Girl.
Ian views language as the practical analogue to conceptual expression, and, while working toward his degree, hopes to expand his understanding of the relationship between rhetoric and world view. His interests include low-fiction, creative non-fiction, and identity as defined in a media saturated age. Outside of university, Ian enjoys biking, hiking, and writing essays on contemporary culture; as well conversations with everyday people throughout whichever community he finds himself in.
Writing Tip: ‘Write every day. Even if it is just a few lines, the practice will pay dividends.”
Andrew received his BA in English from the University of Louisville. His critical research focuses on 17th-century British literature as well as René Girard’s theory of mimetic desire. Presently he serves on the Pine Row Press editorial board. His poetry appears in Thrush Poetry Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, Math Magazine, Poet Lore, High-Shelf Press, Twyckenham Notes, and elsewhere.
Writing Tip: “After getting the assignment and starting your writing process (whatever that might be) jot down all the thoughts you have forming in your head on to the paper. I say this because it is astonishing how many of those quick ideas will become improved concepts later in your paper.”
Ayaat received her BA in English from the University of Louisville. Her interests are in sociolinguistics and British Literature with a focus in feminism and social class. Her love of language was developed at a young age having been raised in a bilingual household. She is from Chicago, Illinois and loves watching baseball as an avid Cubs fan, and spends the rest of her free time reading and writing.
Writing Tip: “Your best friend in the writing process is time. There are a few exceptions, but in general more time you spend on a project (and the sooner you start it!), the less stressful it is to work on it and the better your work ends up. Sometimes I procrastinate because I don’t know where to start; that’s where talking with a friend or visiting the writing center to flesh out your ideas is a great use of time!”
Zoë, a San Diego native, is joining the Writing Center with a background in Humanities and Creative Writing. A true enthusiast for all facets of academia, Zoë loves how the writing process can empower and embolden any student of any discipline to be more effective in their field. Right now, her research interests include children’s literature, the pedagogy of leadership, the writing theory for the student-athlete. When not in the Writing Center, Zoë is probably working out, dancing, watching movies, laughing, or doing all of four at the same time.
Demetrius hales from Atlanta, GA and received his undergraduate degree from Boyce College. He loves reading the literature classics and played college basketball. Friendships are really important to him. His favorite event in Louisville is attending summer-time Shakespeare in the Park plays. His favorite books are the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. His favorite line in poetry is from George Herbert: “Love Bade Me Welcome/ Yet guilty of dust and sin I drew back.”
Writing Tip: “Do not doubt yourself, as even the best writers need to edit and revise their works.”
Spenser is from Lancaster, PA and received a BA in English with a history minor from McDaniel College in 2019. While at McDaniel, he served as an editor for both the college’s newspaper and literary magazine. His areas of interest include modernism, 20th Century American literature, and Marxism, with an emphasis on cultural hegemony. Outside of the classroom he enjoys reading, creative writing, hiking, and binge watching movies on Netflix.
Writing Tip: “Try to invest yourself in whatever you are writing about. Whether you love or hate the topic, find a way to connect to it so it’s more than just an assignment.”
Emma received her BA in English and Women’s and Gender Studies from Lindsey Wilson College in May 2020. From 2018-2020, Emma served as a peer Writing Center Consultant in the Writing Center at her undergraduate institution and began to develop an ever-growing writing pedagogy. During this same time, Emma published several papers in undergraduate research journals on topics ranging from Greek literature, Wuthering Heights, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and Dolly Parton. Her research interests have continually been a mixed bag; however, she always loves what she is studying.
Staying safe this year means that we are all often working away from campus and the classroom. The University Writing Center is open for online appointments this semester, so you can get feedback on your writing wherever you are – and you can find out more about that on our website. Even so, we know there are times that you want support for your writing or answers to writing questions, but it may not be convenient to make an appointment (say, it’s midnight and you’d really like some ideas about how to write a stronger introduction to your paper). We have a wide range of resources on our website to help you with writing questions and issues. Are you stuck getting started? Or needing to understand citation styles? Or trying to figure out how to incorporate sources effectively in your writing? Or wanting to sharpen your understanding of active and passive voice? On our website you can choose from more than 75 online resources from Writing FAQs,to Video Workshops to Handouts about writing issues. If you go to our website and explore, you’ll find ideas that will help you whether you’re a first-year student or working on your doctoral dissertation. Here are a few highlights:
Academic writing means being part of a scholarly conversation, which means drawing from other research for evidence, ideas, as well as to establish your credibility. Our videos on how to use sources in your writing can help you with Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing, as well as making sure you’re Avoiding Plagiarism. We also having a handout on Using Sources which includes lots of examples. It’s important to connect your ideas to the research you are reading, and for some ideas about how to make those connections in your writing, see our video series on Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts.
Check out all these resources and more. You can also find lots of good writing advice on this blog from the University Writing Center staff. And, of course, we hope you make an appointment and let us help you make your writing as strong as it can be!
It would be easy to start this post by talking about all the things that are different this year in the University Writing Center, from online tutoring to adapting to daily lives of masks, disinfectant, and physical distancing. Yet, by this point, we are all familiar with those aspects of daily life. Instead, I want to focus on the continuity of this year in the University Writing Center. This past week, our new consultants met for our orientation and began to plan for the year ahead. Just as in years past, this year’s new consultants are a talented, dedicated group of graduate students who are eager to start working with UofL students, faculty, and staff to provide them with feedback and strategies that help them become stronger and more confident writers. Our consultants remain committed to helping writers at every stage of writing – from brainstorming to revising drafts – and with every form of writing, be it academic, professional, or personal. And, as in the past, we plan to work collaboratively with writers, listening carefully to their concerns and working together to create plans for revision to make their writing more effective and engaging. Some things don’t change.
As you can imagine, however, we are making some changes to adapt to the pandemic. The most significant change is that all our appointments for Fall 2020 will take place online. We have two kinds of appointments from which you can choose – live video chat or written feedback. A live video chat is a real-time video chat with a consultant. Our live chat format, which is part of our online scheduling system, includes a video chat capability and a shareable digital whiteboard where both the writer and consultant can make notes on the draft. Live video chat appointments allow for conversation between the writer and consultant. Written feedback appointments are asynchronous. Writers upload a draft and receive a typed, written response by email. All our appointments are 50 minutes long. Before your first appointment, visit the our website to learn more about the two appointment types to decide which best fits your needs. http://louisville.edu/writingcenter/appointments-1.
Tips to Make the Most of Your Online Appointment
The online appointments we are using this year may be new to you, and so here are a few tips to help you get the most out of the experience.
When you make your appointment: For all appointments, the more you can tell us about the assignment, and your concerns, the more we can help you. It it a huge help to us if you upload a copy of your assignment prompt to your appointment form when you make your appointment. If you don’t have a prompt to upload, please tell us everything you can about the assignment or writing task you are working on. Along those same lines, the more detail you can give us on the appointment form about your top concerns about your draft, the more able we are to respond effectively to those concerns. If, rather than just list a few words, you can write a detailed note about your concerns, we’ll be better able to give you suggestions and advice to address your concerns. It is particularly important to provide detailed information and writing prompts for written feedback appointments, because the asynchronous format means we can’t ask you direct questions.
As you revise your writing: If you’re not sure where to start in using the written comments to revise your draft, we recommend out handout on “Using Written Feedback When Revising.” You may also find our other handouts that cover writing strategies from writing introductions to citation to grammar and usage issues helpful when revising.
Other Online Resources to Help You with Your Writing
In addition to our appointments, do keep in mind that we have a wide range of online resources to help you with your writing that are available to you at any time..
We have Video Workshops on issues such as citation styles and formatting and how to use sources effectively.
We also have more than 35 handouts online with advice about writing processes, grammar and usage, strategies for approaching different parts of a draft, and more.
We also have Writing FAQs that cover the kinds of questions that come up often in our work and offer you suggestions on how to approach common writing situations.
We will be using our social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Our Blog) to post ideas and resources about writing, and some things just to brighten the day.
Unfortunately, we have had to suspend our usual fall events, such as open mic nights and panel discussions about writing. We look forward to resuming them when we can so safely.
Flexibility, Patience, and Caring
One other crucial thing that has not changed at he University Writing Center is our commitment to treating all UofL writers with respect and empathy. We are writers, just as you are, and we are living through unnerving and stressful times, just as you are. We know that getting through this difficult time will require flexibility, patience, and caring, on all our parts, and we commit ourselves to those values in working with all writers.
We look forward to working with you in the weeks ahead.
The University Writing Center stands with our staff, colleagues, students, and community members who are protesting for social and economic justice and against White supremacy. We condemn systemic racist and violent oppression of Black people both in our community and nationwide. We recognize and pledge to act against historical and ongoing inequitable treatment of Black people.
In our own work at the University Writing Center and in our community partnerships, we reaffirm our commitment to antiracist education. Like the University and the community, our consultants, staff, and the writers with whom we work, come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Some experience the direct effects of racism in their daily lives, while others benefit from systems of white privilege. We recognize that, as an organization, we must do more than simply respect diversity. As we say on our Statement on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, we “commit to critiquing and speaking out against individual and structural oppression in an effort to create a safer, more just university for all students.”
We also see our role as an educational institution as reaffirming our ongoing commitment to antiracist education. As our statement says,
We approach this work by listening to voices that are experiencing racism and oppression and by continuing to work to educate ourselves about systems of power and inequality. We continue to work as a staff to educate ourselves, listen carefully, and reflect on issues of identity, language, and power so that we can respond as allies and advocates for writers in the UofL community. We understand issues of inclusion and diversity require ongoing, daily work that is never finished.
Such work requires listening to and reading the work of those whose voices can educate us on both systems of racism in our culture as well as the pain, injury, and inequality such systems perpetuate. Such work requires honest reflection and ongoing conversation about our roles in institutions shaped by ideologies of White supremacy. The work is ongoing and we can and must do better.
In an effort to promote and continue antiracist education and activism, I am including links below to a few of the many resources that I hope people will find useful. My thanks to those who have done the work of putting these resources together.
Every May since 2012 the University Writing Center has held a Dissertation Writing Retreat during which we have welcomed a group of doctoral scholars into the Writing Center for a week focused on writing and talking about writing. It is one of the highlights of our spring and one of the great pleasures every year is the way a group of individual scholars who have never met before coalesce into a community of writers. I had always thought that part of the recipe that helped that happen was the physical presence of the writers in the University Writing Center space. Talking with other writers, sharing lunch, and even just being in the same room writing together, created an environment in which a supportive community of writers developed, and often carried on well after the Retreat.
When we knew six weeks ago that in-person events would no longer be allowed on campus this spring and summer, we decided that we would go ahead with the Dissertation Writing Retreat as a virtual, online event. While there was much to work out
about logistics and planning to make this change, one of our concerns was also whether we would be able to foster a sense of connection and community in a virtual retreat.
Still, we planned the Retreat to have essentially the same elements as before. The Retreat offers writers working on their dissertations time to focus on their writing and the chance to get feedback on their writing and to talk about issues connected to dissertation writing. In this year’s Retreat, as before, we provided daily, individual writing consultations for each writer. In addition, each day had morning and afternoon check-in meetings to set goals for the day and talk about accomplishments. We also had daily small group discussions at lunchtime about writing issues such as structuring a dissertation, staying motivated, responding to committee feedback, and writing during a pandemic. While the elements were the same as in previous years, there is no doubt that the dynamic was not always the same. Even so, what did not change is that people were still engaged and excited about working and talking about their projects and had productive weeks, both in terms of what they wrote and in terms of refining their writing processes and strategies. By the week, everyone was tired, but part of a community of writers. This year’s Retreat illustrated that it is the commitment and openness of the people involved that determines how a community will grow, more than their physical proximity. It was heartening and exciting to see.
The credit for the success of the Retreat, as always, goes to the hard work of the writers – 14 doctoral students from nine different disciplines – as well as the hard work Cassie Book, our Associate Director, and all of the University Writing Center staff who planned and took part in the week. In addition, our thanks go to The Graduate School for once again providing funding for the Retreat. My thanks to them all.
It’s always best, though, to hear from the people involved about how the Retreat went for them. Here are a few thoughts from writers and consultants about the week.
First, the writers:
Aubrey Mojesky, Biology: During the dissertation writing retreat, I learned to be more intentional with my writing by looking at the function of a piece of writing, not just the content. The retreat also connected me to a community of writers with similar goals and an understanding of this unique and challenging project. The retreat allowed me to feel more supported in writing my dissertation, particularly during a very difficult and isolating time.
Diane Zero, Public Health: Thank you very much for this experience. I learned so much from my consultant; on how to improve the technical aspects of the writing process, and to see the big picture of my dissertation. Working with Liz helped me visualize the ‘so what’ part of the dissertation. It helped me articulate need for my proposed research and possible important changes in practice stemming from my work. Because of this, my dissertation is much improved. Since social distancing began, I have struggled as a student and as a member of the University of Louisville community. By the end of this week, both are back- I am excited to move forward!
Sunita Khanal, Biology: Dissertation Writing Retreat 2020 was very helpful to me. I participated in this retreat during my final semester. That’s why, I was a bit worried when I joined thinking if this will be supportive for me or will it just chew away my dissertation writing time. However, this retreat ultimately proved beneficial to me. So, I can say that you can participate in this retreat, irrespective of the phase of dissertation writing you are in. Even though the retreat was held virtually this time, writing center staff worked around the clock to make this a beneficial experience. Their dedication is not only seen in technical arrangements, but also through their eagerness to address any questions/concerns. Workshops held at noon as well as one-on-one consultation were very helpful and interactive. Overall, I had very productive week. Big thanks to writing center faculty, consultants, staff and all the team for the opportunity.
Greg Clark, Comparative Humanities: The Dissertation Writing Retreat was very helpful to me. The overall structure for the week and daily tasks allowed me accomplish important work. I will also be able to take skills I gained from the workshop and apply them to the remainder of my work on my dissertation.
From the consultants:
Megen Boyett, Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing: I came into the week a little nervous about a virtual set-up. I love working with writers face-to-face and seeing the community that forms during the week. I knew that this week wouldn’t be that, and even though I said to other people “this will just be different; it’ll have different strengths,” what I meant was “this will be better than nothing.” In fact, a virtual retreat does have different strengths. Where the joy of an in-person retreat is the in-person community and solidarity, during the virtual retreat, I had a chance to connect deeply with writers as individuals. I saw their workspaces and discussed literature reviews as they fixed lunch for kids. Our talk about writing processes felt placed: rather than being in the writing center, which can feel like a “break” from the outside world, writers were in their homes, and so our discussions included the material things in their day-to-day lives, like mealtimes, toddler and spouse schedules, and nap breaks. Each person took the writing work of the week seriously, accomplishing astounding amounts of work in a five-day span. I wonder if, as they move out of “retreat” mode, it won’t actually be easier to implement the practices they started in this virtual space, having already done the work of integrating “real life” and intensive writing.
Rachel Rodriguez, Assistant Director of the University Writing Center: This year’s retreat, my third working as a consultant, was unique to say the least. In some ways, the retreat looked nothing like my previous ones, but in other ways, it felt like returning once more to a fitting conclusion to another academic year. Much of this year’s retreat was unprecedented, on both a global and a personal level. My writers were dealing with unexpected changes to their research plans and writing timelines because of COVID-19, and I never anticipated that as a consultant I’d one day help writers figure out how to discuss a global pandemic in the methods section of their dissertations. This year we were also working from home, which meant glimpses into the chaos of our quarantining lives. For me, this looked (and sounded, sometimes noisily) like the presence of small children, significant others, and even maintenance workers. Still, in the end, tutoring with a three month old baby in my arms to the staccato banging of construction workers re-roofing my writer’s apartment building resulted not in frustration or anger, but in patience, grace, and empathy. No matter the circumstances, these emotions always resonate in each dissertation writing retreat: writers learn the balance between endurance and self-care, and a community of emerging scholars both commiserates and lifts each other up. How wonderful that a retreat without a space or even the physical presence of others can still create that magic.
Olalekan Adepoju, incoming Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing: The Dissertation Writing Retreat was a satisfying experience for me (and my assigned writers) as it practically connected me to the varieties of struggles encountered during the dissertation writing phase of doctoral program. One of the many concerns that came up during consultations was the need to establish authorial identity in writing, which most graduate students struggles with because of the student-scholar identity crisis. Discussions between me and my assigned writers highlight that one of the possible strategies to resolving this is to consciously produce drafts that are written in active voice (even if such draft has to go through multiple revisions). We concluded that it is imperative to approach dissertation writing from this perspective as it will help to cultivate writerly confidence and establish authorial stance.
Aubrie Cox, Assistant Director of the Virtual Writing Center: For the virtual version of the dissertation writing retreat, writers were asked to write and post their daily goals and a recap each day. Any other year, this would be a verbal sharing, which created a sense of immediacy; however, as the week went on, it was powerful to scroll through and see the accumulation of everyone’s goals and accomplishments. They had created an archive and record of their work and experience throughout the week. Having worked with writers in-person during last year’s dissertation writing retreat, I saw the way lunch hour and breaks helped people to form bonds and connect. It was something I had worried would be lost this year–it’s hard to form fast bonds in virtual spaces–but every writer I interacted this week with commented on the sense of community and working together helped them to focus. I think it speaks to an innate part of what the dissertation writing retreat is–it creates a sense of solidarity, both among their UofL peers and in the writing dissertation process.
This is the time of year, when the dogwoods are in bloom and classes are drawing to a close, that I usually draft up a blog post to look back on our University Writing Center accomplishments over the previous year. If you read over those posts from the past, you’ll find some common threads about what we value and what we’ve done. This year, however, though the dogwood in front of my house is reliably spectacular, this end-of-year blog post is unlike any of the others I have done in the past decade. As with all of us, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down – or at least sideways – in the middle of the spring semester. In two days we had to turn our entire University Writing Center operation, with two physical locations and one virtual schedule providing hundreds of appointments each week, into one, large integrated online Writing Center. What’s more, we had to develop a system to coordinate the daily work of a staff of almost 20 people who would now all be working at home. At the same time, our consultants, all students themselves, and our writers were all scrambling to adjust to a new environment of online learning and sheltering in place.
Yet, when people ask why I say we have the best Writing Center staff in the business, it is for moments like these. Cassie Book, our associate director, and Amber Yocum, our administrative associate, worked fast and flawlessly to make the transition to the online schedule made for writers making appointments and for our tutoring staff. We didn’t miss a single appointment in the transition to the online schedule. Since that transition, our consultants, all working from home and balancing family and their own courses, have continued to provide exceptional feedback to writers from across multiple departments and disciplines. I am always proud of the people who work in the University Writing Center, but this year’s staff has been something special. I feel so fortunate to have been able to work with them and the University community has been fortunate to have them to help support and strengthen writing at UofL.
Even with the disruptions that have affected all of us in the past six weeks, however, much of what we have done, and continue to do, has not changed. Our consultants have continued to offer insightful advice about writing, as well as thoughtful support and suggestions about how to navigate the challenges of writing in such a rapidly changing and deeply unsettling time. We continued to believe that not only is every person who writes a “writer,” but that careful listening, thoughtful response, and creative collaboration can make everyone a more effective and confident writer. And, as always, we appreciate the trust that writers from across the UofL community display in letting us work with them.
We will be open during the summer, starting May 11, from 9-4 every weekday. You can find out more on our website. You can also follow us on our blog and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Beyond Tutoring – Events and Community Writing
Before the pandemic, we once again worked to fulfill our commitment to supporting a culture of writing on campus and in the community.
I am proud of our staff every day. They work consistently with care and intellectual insight to support the work of writers in the University. They also make me laugh and enjoy coming to work each day. Thanks go to Associate Director Cassie Book, Administrative Associate Amber Yocum, and Assistant Directors, Megen Boyett, Aubrie Cox, Edward English, and Rachel Rodriguez. Also special thanks go to Writing Center Intern and HSC Consultant Liz Soule. Our consultants this year have been Olalekan Adepoju, Ash Bittner, Michelle Buntain, Tristan DeWitt, Rose Dyar, Kendyl Harmeling, Kelby Gibson, Catherine Lange, Shiva Mainaly, Lauren Plumlee, Hayley Salo, Cat Sar, and Kayla Sweeney. Our student workers were and Milaela Smith and Jency Trejo.
Writing Center Staff Achievements
The University Writing Center is also an active site of scholarship about the teaching of writing. Staff from the Writing Center were engaged in a number of scholarly projects during the past year in rhetoric and composition, literature, and creative writing.
Cassandra Book, Associate Director, is now Dr. Cassandra Book after defending her dissertation “Students at a Crossroads: TA Development Across Pedagogical and Curricular Contexts” from Old Dominion University. In addition she was awarded the 2020 UofL College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Performance Award for Staff. She presented at the International Writing Centers Association Conference and was accepted for the College Conference on Composition and Communication (which was cancelled because of the pandemic).
Megen Boyett, Assistant Director for Graduate Student Writing, was accepted at the Conference on Community Writing and the Conference on College Composition and Communication (that were cancelled because of the pandemic).
Aubrie Cox, Assistant Director for the Virtual Writing Center published “Reparative Leanings of Haiku Aesthetics: Ways of Knowing and Reading in Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s A Dialogue on Love,” Juxtapositions: A Journal of Haiku Research and Scholarship Issue 5, December 2019. Two poems in ANOTHER TRIP AROUND THE SUN: 365 Days of Haiku for Children Young and Old. Brooks Books, 2019. Three poems in All the Way Home: Aging in Haiku. Middle Island Press, 2019.
Edward English, Assistant Director of the University Writing Center was accepted at the Conference on College Composition and Communication (cancelled because of the pandemic).
Rachel Rodriguez, Assistant Director of the University Writing Center presented at the IWCA Ideas Exchange and was accepted to present at the Conference on College Composition and Communication and the Rhetoric Society of America (both canceled due to COVID19). She co-authored a CompPile WPA Bibliography on Translingualism and published “The Unique Affordances of Plainness in George Eliot’s Silas Marner and Middlemarch,” in the forthcoming volume 72, no. 1 of George Eliot-George Henry Lewes Studies.
Ash Bittner, defended his MA Thesis Long for Death will enter the UofL Humanities Ph.D. program in the fall on a University Fellowship.
Michelle Buntain, did a reading of her poetry at the Bard’s Town in Louisville.
Tristan DeWitt, chaired a panel at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture.
Rose Dyar, was accepted to present at the AEPL’s summer conference.
Catherine Lange presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication Virtual Conference.
Hayley Salo, will be the Morton Chair Research Assistant for Dr. Deborah Lutz next year.
Cat Sar, was awarded a Department of English Creative Writing Scholarship
Liz Soule, presented at the International Writing Centers Association Conference in October and will enter the UofL Rhetoric and Composition Ph.D. Program next year on a University Fellowship.
Jency Trejo, one of our student workers, also passed her U.S. Citizenship Exam.
This update from APA seemed like a good time to reflect upon the role of citation and academic style in writing. This blog post overviews the major changes introduced by APA 7th edition, while at the same time explaining a bit about the role and purpose of these components. For more details and visuals, watch our video on the changes, which is a great companion to this post.
A title page is the first part of your paper that your reader will see. Even though the saying goes you “should not judge a book by its cover,” everyone knows that readers will draw conclusions about writing based on a book cover, or a paper’s title page. In essence, formatting is a type of visual rhetoric. Correctly adhering to an academic formatting style demonstrates that your writing is part of a community. You speak the language of the insiders. Not following the formatting guidelines can, unfortunately, flag you as an outsider.
APA 6th edition’s title page included the anger-inducing “Running head” in the page header. The frustrating aspect was that the title page header was different than the rest of the pages. 7th edition actually has two options for a title page, student and professional. In both versions, the running head is the same on every page, including the title page. For students, the only element in the header is the page number!
Level headings are another aspect of APA that often gives writers a headache. However, level headings are super useful for transitioning from one part of a paper to another and giving a paper a logical order. And again, they contribute to the visual rhetoric of an APA formatted paper, keeping it looking orderly and standardized. If you want to divide up your paper into sections (e.g. methods, results, discussion), you must follow APA’s formatting guidelines to label the sections. Here is an example of a circumstance in which a writer would employ level one and two headings: A writer divides the methodology section, a level one heading, into subsections, such as participant recruitment, sample size, and instruments. The subsections would be level two headings. APA has changed the formatting for level headings for levels 3-5. This is the new chart with the changes highlighted:
However, perhaps the biggest change is that the level one heading format, which looks like this,
Centered, Bold, Title Case
is now the format for the title on your title page, label for “Abstract” on the abstract page (if you need one), title of your paper on the first body page, and the label for “References” on the References Page.
This is probably a good time to remind you to always follow any instructions from your professor or journal that differ from the official style guide. It is quite common for professors and journals to want you to do something different than the style guide.
Your references page is where you list all the sources you cited in the body of your paper. The purpose is to give your readers the complete information about a source, so they can learn about what kinds of sources you’re using and potentially locate those sources themselves. And, again, it credits those sources for their work.
The reason why the requirements for reference entries seems to be constantly changing is because digital sources and the internet constantly challenge existing templates, which were often based on qualities of print sources. I recommend using our APA 7th edition handout on in-text citation and references to learn exactly how 7th edition affects websites, Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), publisher location, and multiple authors.
When referring to individuals whose identified pronouns are not known or when the gender of a generic or hypothetical person is irrelevant within the context, use the singular ‘they’ to avoid making assumptions about an individual’s gender. (APA, 2020, p. 140)
Citation styles, especially APA, can certainly be frustrating because of what seem like endless tedious details. (And then they change on you!) However, knowing the reasons that such guidelines exist, and why they change, may help ease the citation and formatting burden a bit. Plus, you always have friendly writing center consultants and administrators here to guide you.